"I really like that friend of yours. Hanna," Veronica commented the next day, as casually as she could. "She's got her head screwed on the right way."
Spencer didn't say anything. Whatever Hanna had told Veronica the night before, it appeared to have worked. Everyone had been singing her praises since the moment Spencer came down for breakfast.
She hadn't gone to school, on Peter's insistence. His theory was that having tried and failed to see her at home, Toby would go to the school instead. Veronica flitted in and out all day, partly to check up on Spencer, partly to update her on the ongoing situation with the police. That the search warrant could be thrown out was nice to know, but it didn't return the possessions the police had stolen, or the violation of knowing they'd been in her room, rifling through her things, ripping her privacy to shreds.
That injustice still hurt more than others.
Spencer spent the majority of the day upstairs, avoiding Melissa's poetic waxings about the magic of pregnancy. Aria called at lunch to send her their love, ordering her to stay strong in the face of adversity and other literary quotes she'd obviously borrowed from Ezra Fitz. Still, the sentiment behind them made Spencer smile.
She was forbidden to go for a run. She was forbidden to have any friends over, except for Hanna, who was busy with Caleb anyway. She was even forbidden from using her laptop in case she emailed Toby. It was tough to keep up her spirits when her defiance was being so stamped on, but she clung to the fact that at any moment, she could call Toby, hear his voice, and everything would be ok.
But it wasn't quite enough. Talking to him didn't make up for not being able to see him, touch him, see his smile instead of just imagine it. She went to bed resolute on seeing him the next day, with Hanna's help of course.
Her sleep was disturbed by a sliver of light falling onto her face, causing her to look round at her mother. Learning that the police had found something, found fibres, linking her to Alison's death, made Spencer physically nauseous. She forgot that her mother was trying to keep her away from Toby, was practically keeping her prisoner, and clung to her instead, as though she were a little girl all over again and Veronica's embrace could keep away the monsters that lived under her bed. She fell asleep out of pure exhaustion in her mother's arms, and was woken continually throughout the night by the ghost of sirens or the feel of steel across her wrists.
This could only mean one thing; they would be coming for her. They would arrest her. She was going to be arrested for Alison's murder and thrown into jail like a criminal, the way Ian deserved to be but instead it would be her and he would be free, raising a baby with Melissa, shaking his head with horror at what his wife's little sister had turned out to be.
She slept until late, too late to go to school, not that she wanted to, and stumbled downstairs to find her parents still at home and evidently waiting for her. Their expressions were ones of compassion and concern. Not a hint of accusation.
"How did you sleep?" Veronica asked with concern, stroking Spencer's face as soon as she came within touching distance. Spencer made a face and slid onto one of the stools beside her mother. Peter poured her a cup of coffee and handed it to her.
"Spencer, we need to ask you some questions," he said gently.
"I didn't do it!" Spencer said instantly, and Peter let out a little laugh as he approached and put an arm around her.
"I know that, sweetie. I know. You loved Alison. You would never, ever hurt her," he soothed, and Spencer leaned into his touch. "But someone did hurt her, and they're trying to frame you. We need to find out who they are and we need to stop them before it's too late."
He meant, before she was put in jail. Spencer nodded. He was right. She needed to tell her parents whatever she could. Including A. It was A's trophy-trap that put her in this mess. Maybe the police could trace the messages she and the others were being sent? If they did that, then they would find the video of Alison and Ian, and she would be exonerated. She took a deep breath, preparing herself to tell them all of what had happened, every single thing she knew –
"How often has Toby been inside the house?" asked Peter gently.
Spencer frowned, wrong footed. Her mind still partially on A, she replied, "Only once, the night he stayed. I'm really sorry about that, I am, but there's something –"
"Are you sure?" Veronica pressed.
Spencer paused, looking between her parents. They looked worried, but she didn't understand why. In what direction were their thoughts going that they were asking about Toby? "Yes, I'm sure," she replied, confused. "Why? What's Toby got to do with anything?"
Veronica and Peter exchanged glances, a silent conversation passing between them, and it hit Spencer in an instant. She leapt from the stool, away from them, tears springing to her eyes.
"You think Toby planted those fibres, don't you?" she asked, horrified. "You think he's setting me up."
"It can't be a coincidence," said Peter quickly, as though he could make her see reason before she could stop him speaking such lies, "that the boy who was found in possession of that sweater is suddenly a part of your life. It isn't a coincidence that incriminating evidence is now in your room. He could have planted it –"
"No he couldn't! He'd never been inside this house before Monday, after the police searched my room! He didn't even know where my room was!"
"How do you know that?" asked Veronica. Her parents were walking towards her, bombarding her with questions, trying to sow the seeds of doubt in her fractured mind. "How did he get into your room, Spencer?"
"He climbed up the –"
"He climbed up to your window," said Peter with a self-satisfied smirk. "He could have climbed up at any other time and planted those fibres, Spencer, as his insurance. Or, when he found out you were a person of interest."
"No! Why would he do that?" Spencer tried to protest.
"Because then, he can blame you," said Veronica triumphantly. "He can say that you planted the sweater in his room. He'll be exonerated, the victim, and you'll go to prison for a crime he committed –"
"No!" Spencer screamed, pressing her hands over her ears to block their hateful words out. She didn't believe it, not for a second. Toby wasn't like that. He would never do that to her, he couldn't! It was A who'd forced Spencer into this corner, the same way she forced Toby into one, playing sick and twisted games for enjoyment or revenge or whatever the hell this was all about! But not Toby. She didn't believe it. It made no sense, and she refused to believe it.
"Spencer," said Veronica, prying her hands away, her voice low and comforting. "We know that he's taken you in and that you must be feeling humiliated and embarrassed, but it's ok. He fooled you, but you must see now. You must –"
"You're wrong," Spencer replied, pushing Veronica away. "This isn't Toby. I know him, and this isn't him. You're wrong. You're wrong!"
She ran up the stairs, locked her door, and dialled Toby's number. It rang once before the line went dead. Fear gripped Spencer's heart. Why had he rejected her call? She didn't believe for a moment that he was responsible for the fibres in her room, but maybe … Maybe he believed that she had planted the sweater in the first place. Wasn't that what her mother had insinuated was the police's train of thought? That she'd framed Toby?
Well, she hadn't! And he hadn't framed her! An all-consuming anger grew in her stomach for A, wrecker of lives.
She didn't know that Toby had been woken by his father in a rage hours earlier, ordering Toby to get dressed immediately and join him in the kitchen. Toby did as he was told, remembering the last time he had been woken in such a manner; in prison.
Mr. Cavanaugh was pacing in the kitchen, his fury exuding from him like poison. Jenna and her mother were nowhere to be seen, Toby noted. The sky was only just turning grey. Maybe they were still asleep?
"You lied to me," Mr. Cavanaugh stated the moment he saw Toby. "You told me Jenna must have heard something else, and I believed you."
Toby said nothing, even though he was afraid. He knew better than to speak up, try to defend himself. He could say nothing that wouldn't incriminate himself in this situation.
"I just received a phone call from Spencer Hastings's father," Mr. Cavanaugh continued. "Apparently, you were in his daughter's bedroom all of Monday night. Weren't you?"
Toby bowed his head and lowered his eyes. The picture of remorse. He shouldn't have lied, he knew that, but at the time he couldn't see what benefit the truth would have brought. "I'm sorry Dad," he replied sincerely, and Mr. Cavanaugh snorted.
"Even if I believed you meant that, Toby, it doesn't change the fact that you lied." They stood in silence. "Have you ever stayed there before?"
"No, sir," Toby replied instantly. "Never."
"Are you telling me the truth?" Mr. Cavanaugh pushed, and Toby looked up, meeting his father's eyes unblinkingly.
"Yes, Dad. I'm telling the truth."
Mr. Cavanaugh sighed and sat down at the kitchen table. Toby followed his example. The atmosphere in the room continued to crackle, although Mr. Cavanaugh's rage had clearly abated. He took several deep breaths before looking up at Toby.
"The police searched the house before you stayed there. They can't blame you for this."
"Blame me for what?" Toby replied, confused.
Mr. Cavanaugh smiled. Genuinely. With relief. "The police found some fibres in some of Spencer Hastings's jewellery. The fibres match the sweater they found here; the one with the bloodstains." Toby stared at him. "Toby, do you know what this means? The only explanation for her having those fibres is if she had possession of that sweater at some point between Alison's death and it being found here. The police believe she framed you."
Toby's mouth fell open. "But … she didn't. She was one of the only people in the whole town who believed – believes – I had nothing to do with it."
"And she believes that because she knows it is true," Mr. Cavanaugh said confidently.
"No, sir, no," Toby protested. "She didn't plant that sweater. She's not like that."
Mr. Cavanaugh shrugged. "I don't really care, Toby. I don't care what she's like. Don't you see what this is? It's a gift! Of innocence! Proof that you are innocent!"
Toby didn't know how to respond. True, it was, but at what cost? Was that how this cruel world worked? Did his freedom come at the price of Spencer's? Why couldn't the police do their job properly and find the real killer? Why couldn't he and Spencer be free together, vindicated and left in peace?
"Whether you believe Spencer Hastings's is responsible or not is irrelevant," Mr. Cavanaugh said, sweeping the majority of the matter aside. "I want you to sever all contact with her."
Toby shook his head on impulse, a gut reaction. He would not abandon Spencer. His feelings for her were greater than any feeling he'd ever felt before. In just a few short days she had become the focus of all of his thoughts, the sun lighting up his life whenever they spoke. He couldn't stay away from her even if he wanted to. He felt drawn to her every second of the day, something dragging at his chest, urging him to walk and walk and walk until he could take her into his arms and keep her there for as long as it took to save her.
"Dad, I can't –"
"You don't have a choice, Toby," Mr. Cavanaugh told him, broking no argument. His eyes were flints and his heart, ice. He would not be moved, and his will felt like an iron whip slashing across Toby's back, forcing him into obedience. "If you continue this … connection, people may think that the two of you did this together. I will not let you pass up this opportunity for a girl."
He stood up, and Toby knew there was no point in arguing. He watched his father bustle around the kitchen, whistling as he made some coffee. It had been months since he'd last heard his father whistle. Actually, more like a year. Not since before Jenna's accident. That his potential exoneration had made his father so happy touched Toby, but he couldn't share the feeling. His life had been saved, but Spencer's had been condemned.
He retreated to his room rather than eat with the family, needing some time and space in which to think. He knew he couldn't abandon Spencer, that was the first thought in his mind. She'd searched him out and offered her support when he was chained to his porch and universally hated. Even if he'd hated her, he wouldn't be able to dismiss her after that act of kindness. And he definitely didn't hate her. He would never be able to hate Spencer Hastings.
A while later, as he continued to struggle to come up with a solution, there was a knock on his door. One he recognised, and ignored.
"I know you're in there, Toby," Jenna called out.
With a sigh, Toby walked up to the door and opened it, standing firmly in the way to prevent Jenna from entering. She tried, and bumped into him, her hands coming up to rest on his chest. He carefully removed them.
"What do you want, Jenna?" he asked. Her presence made him feel tired. Jenna's face turned towards his, and he resisted the urge to shudder. He had never quite got over what had happened to her. Her eyes had been so expressive, and to be faced with the sunglasses she barely took off always made Toby uneasy.
"Did you sleep with her?" Jenna asked in a low voice. Their parents were just down the hall, and Toby knew he should pull Jenna into his room to prevent their overhearing the conversation, but he'd vowed to never let her inside again. It was a vow he intended to keep, no matter what the cost.
"That's none of your business," he replied, not needing clarification on who Jenna was talking about. Jenna took that answer to be a confirmation and took a step back, her mouth quivering. She quickly got herself back under control.
"This ends now," she told him dangerously. "Whatever is going on between you and Spencer –"
"You have no authority to tell me what to do, Jenna," Toby replied, cutting her off. "And there is nothing you can do to make me want you the way I want her."
He closed the door on her, ignoring her indignant gasp, and took a deep breath trying to calm himself down. Any encounter with Jenna always left him breathless with anger. However, she wasn't finished.
"If you touch her again, Toby, I will tell her about us," she hissed through the door.
Toby leant against the door and closed his eyes with a sigh. "Jenna, she already knows," he told her through the wood and heard the abrupt silence that statement was met with. There was no way Emily wouldn't have told her friends, and he'd seen the way Spencer reacted to the very mention of Jenna's name. She knew. They just hadn't discussed it yet. They would have to eventually, Toby knew, if they wanted this to last.
"Do her parents know?" asked Jenna maliciously.
Toby made no response. Another confirmation.
"I mean it Toby. You stay away from her, or I'll tell everyone that you forced yourself on me. Who do you think they'll believe?"
He heard Jenna walk away triumphantly, her cane tapping across the floor. The urge to punch a wall was one he could barely restrain. If it weren't enough that Spencer's parents had banned them from seeing each other, now his own family were getting involved too! For a moment, he wondered if this was fate's way of telling them that they were doomed, but then Toby remembered he didn't believe in fate. And if it was fate, then he'd prove everyone wrong. Giving up on Spencer would be selfish and cowardly, and Toby prided himself on being neither of those things.
His phone rang, and he saw it was Spencer. He rejected the call, knowing that he couldn't talk to her while his parents and Jenna were in the house. He would have to wait until they left, and in the meantime, decide what on earth he was going to do!
Hanna showed up after school, cheeks flushed healthily, and carrying a stack of school books. The first thing she did after dropping them on Spencer's bed was pull her friend into a comforting embrace that Spencer needed more than she would ever admit.
"A is a bitch," Hanna stated as a fact, and it made Spencer smile.
"You've got that right," she mumbled as they sat down on the bed, Hanna taking Spencer's hand and squeezing it supportively.
"I have something that might cheer you up," teased Hanna with a smile. "How would you like to spring this joint for a few hours and see your boy?"
Spencer didn't perk up as Hanna had expected. Instead, she looked even more depressed. "I tried to call him earlier and he rejected the call. I think he –"
"I'm sure he was just with his family or his psycho stepsister," said Hanna comfortingly. "He'll be thrilled to see you, trust me."
Spencer didn't look convinced, but Hanna sent her to her bathroom, ordering her to make herself even prettier while Hanna arranged everything. When Spencer emerged, it was to find Hanna waiting with a triumphant smirk on her face, flipping through one of the many magazines she never seemed to be without.
"Finally!" Hanna exclaimed. "Come on. Let's go."
"But what about –"
"Spencer, quit worrying! I have taken care of everything," Hanna soothed as she pushed Spencer out of the room. They descended into the living room, where Veronica and Melissa were sitting together, talking. The conversation stopped abruptly.
"Well, we're off out Mrs. Hastings," chirped Hanna, and Veronica smiled over at them.
"Have fun girls. Try not to be home too late," she called, waving goodbye.
Spencer shook her head as she and Hanna left the house. "Ok, whatever you said to my Mom, you have to tell me! If I could get on her good side like that, I'd be –"
"Melissa?" suggested Hanna cheekily, and Spencer pushed her away, giggling. "Come on, Juliet. Your Romeo awaits!"
Anticipation built in the pit of Spencer's stomach as they got into the car and Hanna drove away from the Hastings house. "What does my Mom think we're doing?" she asked.
"A girl's night," Hanna replied. "I tried to get you a free pass for the whole night, but that was a miracle too far so you'll have to make do with just a few hours."
Spencer would have been happy with a few minutes. She reached out and squeezed Hanna's shoulder, not really knowing what else to do to communicate her gratitude. They were heading, Spencer realised, for the motel she and Toby had spent their first night together at. Butterflies threatened to make her stomach burst.
"How's Toby getting there?" she asked.
"Emily's driving him," said Hanna. "And it was Aria who collected all your schoolwork for you, so today's been a real group effort," she teased. Spencer rolled her eyes, but texted Aria a thank you. If she was going to be trapped inside the Hastings house for the foreseeable future, having something to do was definitely necessary.
They pulled up to the motel. Spencer saw Emily's car was notably absent and she hesitated. Then, a door opened. It wasn't the room they'd shared last time, but what did that matter? It was still Toby standing in the doorway, smiling at her.
"Go," urged Hanna. "I'll pick you up later."
Spencer hesitated still. "What are you doing tonight?" she asked, and Hanna pointed to another room where Caleb was waiting, a suggestive smile on his face.
"We haven't had any time to be private since he moved into the guestroom," Hanna winked at Spencer as she climbed out of the car. "Go get yours, Spence, and I'll get mine."
Spencer burst out laughing as Hanna ran over to Caleb, and then turned to Toby. He opened his arms and she ran into them, resting her head on his chest with a contended sigh.
"Hey Spencer," he greeted, pressing a kiss to her forehead.
"I'm so glad you're here," Spencer told him. "I thought you might think that I set you up with the sweater and –"
"Of course I don't think that," said Toby as he ushered Spencer inside. She sat down on the bed and he joined her. "I could never think that about you, Spencer. Of course, my family are a different matter."
Spencer groaned, dropping her head into her hands. "Great, that's just great," she whimpered. "Your parents think I set you up, and my parents think you did the same thing to me."
Toby blinked with surprise. "They do?"
"I didn't believe a word of it –" Spencer began immediately, but Toby pressed a finger against her lips.
"I know you didn't," he soothed, and Spencer moved closer, resting her cheek on his shoulder.
"This is all so screwed up," she sighed, and Toby nodded his agreement. He lay back on the bed, and Spencer curled up against him. He stroked her hair gently, feeling the silky strands slide through his fingers. His touch burned a little as Spencer struggled inwardly, before taking a deep breath, partly for courage, and partly because she had something very important to tell him.
She spoke for an hour, maybe longer, spoke until her throat cracked and tears came to her eyes. He didn't move the whole time, and Spencer was convinced that the moment she stopped he would push her away and run as far as he could. So she kept talking, describing absolutely everything, and the suspicions that had been raised by it. She talked and talked and talked, and then Toby knew everything.
Toby knew about A.
He processed it all in silence, and a lot of things that had not previously made sense snapped into focus. Things he hadn't understood were now clear and obvious. Spencer's unerring honesty touching him, no matter how bad a light it painted her in. When she reached the present day, pausing to draw breath, he tightened his grip on her, silently telling her he was going nowhere, and felt her relax.
He repaid her honesty in kind, beginning long before Spencer had by telling her everything that had happened with Jenna in enough detail to make her shudder. Toby didn't spare her the more gruesome arguments, the threats Jenna had made, and his continuous submission to her whims despite his better judgement. He described the fire and the aftermath. He talked of reform school and returning to Rosewood, free but trapped. Then there was Emily, and the mess of Homecoming, and then he'd been on the run. Prison. Bail. The horror of being a prisoner in his own home.
And then, Spencer. Toby's voice notably changed when he talked about her, it became happier and lighter and richer. He began to subconsciously play with her hair again, twisting and untwisting a few strands as he described his more recent life, some of which she'd witnessed herself, but hearing it from Toby's point of view was fascinating. Spencer decided that once science had made the necessary technology, she would climb into Toby's head and live there, examining his thought process that made him exonerate all others from wrong doing. Even Jenna and Alison.
Rose tinted glasses to the extreme, and yet Toby wasn't naïve. He knew too much.
It was dark by now. Their time was running out. They lay in silence for a moment after their long confessions.
"I wish we could stay here forever," Spencer murmured. "I wish we could stay together."
Toby nodded. He felt exactly the same, and was trying to think of a way to make that happen. Apart from finding the real killer, very little else was occurring to him. He needed to save Spencer and their relationship in one fell swoop, but how? His inability to come up with a plan frustrated him.
There was a knock at the door. Hanna. Spencer groaned, and sat up. "I'll be out in a minute," she called, heard Hanna's acknowledgement, and then looked round at Toby. He was staring at the ceiling, glaring at it, concentrating fiercely.
"I promise I'll think of something," he stated as he sat up, meeting her gaze. "Something other than running away like I did."
Spencer giggled. She stroked Toby's cheek and kissed him, swept up in an immediate electric current which made her wonder why they had wasted time talking when they could have been doing this! Toby kissed her back just as strongly, pulling her impossibly close the way he had when she showed up at this very motel to find him a few days earlier. He kissed her as though he may never do so again, a possibility which chilled their bones.
Finally, Spencer pulled away with a whimper. She had to leave. There was no more time.
"We'll do this again," she promised. "Soon. Tomorrow!"
Toby nodded. "I'll be here," he vowed, and watched Spencer run outside. He fell back onto the bed and rubbed his face, willing himself to have an epiphany as soon as possible.
NB - Sorry again for this taking longer to upload, but the chapter's are significantly longer than the ones I usually write. But don't worry, my inspiration for this is even stronger with the premiere of the second season of PLL's only a few weeks away! =] So, do you guys like this? Reviews are gold! =]